Engaging Content For Online Teaching And Learning

6 Content Types For Teaching Online
Summary: Finding the best way to deliver your content and get your students to understand you in a face-to-face teaching environment can be challenging. Doing that in an online environment can be even more challenging.

6 Content Types For Teaching Online

With virtual learning, reactions are usually not seen and one cannot really know if and when students become confused. Also, one cannot hear their voices or get the kind of instant feedback as one would have in a classroom environment. This means we must seek different ways to present content to students in such a way that they can understand it, especially in an online environment and remain engaged as well.

Dr. Phillips (not her real name), a university lecturer, had been teaching during this COVID period using WhatsApp. She had simply typed out her notes or taken pictures of them and sent them to a group of her students on WhatsApp. The response was discouraging, as students always had an excuse for not responding to her assessments. They always complained, "We can't see the note" or "We don't understand it ma." After a mixture of anger and frustration, she decided to try explaining the text with audio, and the once dull class became active again. After attending a training I facilitated on teaching in a digital environment, she then understood the response and decided to try video!

A dull class can come alive just by changing the content type from text to audio and even more when changed to video!

The Rationale

Why should teachers present students with content using these different methods?

1. To Cater To Different Learning Styles

Students have different learning styles. This means that, just like us, all 30 students (or more or less) in your class do not all learn in the same way. Some are:

  • Visual learners (they learn by seeing)
  • Auditory learners (they learn by hearing)
  • Read-and-write learners (they learn by reading and writing)
  • Kinesthetic learners (they learn by doing)

Some schools of thought even postulate 8 learning styles but the basic fact is that we all learn in different ways and so do our students as well. This immediately shows us the need to provide content that will cater to these learning styles, otherwise, some students might be permanently left out and find it difficult to learn simply because they do not learn in the way you have been teaching.

The goal of teaching is learning, so students must be taught in a way that they can learn. Teachers must present content in different ways to cater to students' different learning styles.

2. To Ensure Student Engagement

One of the biggest challenges of teaching online is distractions. Students get distracted in a face-to-face environment where the teacher is very much in control, it becomes even more difficult to keep that control in an online environment. Why would you love to keep control anyway (that’s a topic for another day)?

Using different content types can help minimize distractions and keep students engaged in the learning content. Those who might sleep or tune out while reading text will come alive and stay on course while watching a video or playing a game.

Do you find your students always distracted and not engaged in the learning activity? Try presenting the content in another form!

Content Types In An Online Environment

When creating content online, ensure to put content in:

1. Text

Try to give your students some notes to read even if it is simply a paragraph or a few lines. You can save it as PDF and upload it for them to download and read in their own time.

2. Image

You can get free images that depict your content or even better create images with free online tools. Tools like Canva, Adobe Spark, and Infographia can be used to create graphics and infographics easily and for free. This can be shared with your students to help capture the major points in your notes.

3. Audio

In addition to the above, teachers can record and post audio files with their text or image content. You can explain the note or a little concept in a short audio clip and upload it for your students. You can also find relevant podcasts and share them with your students. Audio and voice notes should be as short as possible. This will better ensure that your students don’t drift off while listening.

When using audio to teach, it should be a maximum of 10 mins and 10mb.

4. Video

Videos can be used to further engage your students. You can either find a suitable video online on YouTube or create one. To make a virtual class more engaging, you can show your face so your students not only see your content but your face while explaining the content.

Teachers should find or create relevant videos that can be used to teach and communicate content to #students—this increases student engagement

NB—Ensure your video recordings are a maximum of 10 mins and 15mb; you can compress it if it is more.

5. Games

Games can be used in teaching and learning in two ways.

  1. Game-based learning
    Game-based learning is finding and using real games that can help students learn. A simple Google search on "games to teach osmosis" will bring up options that teachers can maximize in an online environment; examples include Mathland, Ducksters, etc.
  2. Gamification
    Gamification is using game principles, like levels, points, badges, lives, leaderboards, etc., for the purpose of learning. This is not exactly about playing games but about taking what makes games fun and engaging and adapting them for learning purposes. It involves giving students points or badges for completing activities or helping their peers, displaying a leaderboard based on total points, etc. This engages the students and makes them active learners.

Whether it's in a face-to-face or online environment, the light bulb comes on when you present content in a more engaging way—try using videos or even games!

6. Internet

I remember taking a course in school and when we asked the lecturer for the course material, he simply said, "The entire internet is your text and it is examinable." This for me is a big advantage of teaching online. Your students have access to content beyond you. They can learn from other experts in the field and this adds to their understanding of the concepts. Even though it takes some control out of your hands, it is very beneficial for students.

Students can search for or build content based on the topic. They can find relevant articles, blogs, videos, documentaries that can be of help to their understanding of the concept. Teachers can also use these to present content to students.

Sources Of Digital Content

How do you get digital content for online teaching?

1. Search For Relevant Content

The internet is full of content already created by other educators that can be useful for your teaching.  Whether it is text, images, videos, or games, a simple Google search can be used to discover content.

So let's say you want to teach "profit and loss" in economics or business studies, you can go to YouTube and search for "profit and loss explained." You will see several videos from animated to cartoon-ish to lectures, etc., that explain the topic. You can also search "educational games to teach profit and loss" and you'll see options.

NB For audio and video, your content must be relevant and short and be sure to credit the source and creator.

2. Create Your Own Content

There are times when you do a search and don't find anything very relevant. What you find may be too advanced for the level you want to teach, not in a sharable format, or worse still, it may be in an entirely different context.

Using the example above, let's say all the images or videos you see use dollars and pounds as the currency to explain profit and loss. This may be difficult for primary or secondary school students in Nigeria who use the naira to comprehend. You may, therefore, need to create your own content yourself. There are many free tools available for you to create content. So whether it is images, videos, or audio there are online/offline tools that can be used.

So as you continue to teach online, ensure that you try your hand at using existing or creating the new, varying content forms discussed above, but bear in mind that each of your students learns in different ways.

We are living in times when teaching online is becoming the norm and there is indeed no going back from this. Every teacher must, therefore, learn to present content to students using different means. Whether they find relevant content already created by someone else or they create theirs, different content types will cater to the different learning styles of your students and also increase engagement in the online environment.

In what ways have you been able to present content to your students and what has your experience been with this? Which did you find easier: finding or creating your content?